Clark Circuit Judge Daniel Moore dismissed a case that had been filed by Clarksville Clerk-Treasurer Gary Hall, which claimed Election Day irregularities due to a lack of handicap accessible voting machines at the polls on May 3.
Moore’s decision was a win for Bob Leuthart, who defeated Hall in the Democratic primary by 24 votes. Hall was challenging the results of the election because handicap accessible machines around the county were out of commission on Election Day. A bench trial, which took only about an hour, took place on Friday morning.
John Vissing, Hall’s attorney, based his case on the fact that federal laws passed as a part of the Help America Vote Act require such machines at each polling location. The Clark County Election Board conceded that the machines were not functional.
Voting machine mechanic William Vissing testified that the malfunction was due to a programing error. Omaha, Neb.-based ES&S, the company contracted to set up machines and ballots for the county, had programmed the machines for the wrong kind of printer, he told the court.
Clark County Clerk Barbara Bratcher-Haas, whose office oversees elections, testified that after officials realized that accessible voting machines were down, election board members decided to have poll workers representing both major political parties assist handicap voters. That was the practice before the federal act went into effect in Indiana in 2009.
John Vissing argued that using that old approach was no longer acceptable because the federal law now requires that handicap voters have the same independence and privacy as others.
The new federal law mandates the machines, he said. “It’s not an option, it’s not like ‘you ought to do it,’ it’s not a suggestion — it’s an order.”
Larry Wilder, attorney for Leuthart, asked William Vissing if he knew of any fraud, illegal conduct, printing mistakes or malfunction that would have made it impossible for a winner in the race to be determined. He answered “no” to all such questions.
The case came down to what the plaintiff didn’t have during the trial: Any voters testifying that their rights had been compromised by the lack of accessible machines. Absent that, Moore said, the burden of proof in the case was not satisfied and acted on a motion to dismiss from the defense. Hall declined to comment after the ruling was made, deferring to his attorney.
“It’s a new world,” John Vissing commented after the hearing. “Voters who are handicapped are now protected.”